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Appears in Collections:eTheses from Faculty of Arts and Humanities legacy departments
Title: Orphans of British Fiction, 1880-1911
Author(s): Floyd, William David
Supervisor(s): Byron, Glennis
Townsend, Dale
Keywords: Victorian Fiction
Issue Date: 1-Oct-2011
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: Orphans of British Fiction, 1880-1911 Abstract William David Floyd Orphans of British Fiction, 1880-1911 focuses on the depiction of orphans in genre fiction of the Victorian fin-de-siecle. The overwhelming majority of criticism focusing on orphans centers particularly on the form as an early- to middle-century convention, primarily found in realist and domestic works; in effect, the non-traditional, aberrant, at times Gothic orphan of the fin-de-siecle has been largely overlooked, if not denied outright. This oversight has given rise to the need for a study of this potent cultural figure as it pertains to preoccupations characteristic of the turn of the century. The term “orphan” may typically elicit images of the Dickensian type, such as Oliver Twist, the homeless waif with no family or fortune with which he or she may discern identity and totality of self. The earlier-century portrayals of orphanhood that produced this stereotype dealt almost exclusively with issues arising from industrialization, such as class affiliation, economic disparity and social reform and were often informed by the cult of the ideal Victorian family. Beginning with an overview of orphanhood as presented in earlier fiction of the long nineteenth century, including its metaphorical import and the conventions associated with it, Orphans of British Literature, 1880-1911 goes on to examine the notable variance in literary orphans in genre fiction at the turn of the century. Indicators of the zeitgeist of modernism’s advent, turn-of-the-century orphans functioned as registers of burgeoning cultural anxieties particular to the fin-de-siecle, such as sexual ambiguity, moral and physical degeneration and concerns about the imperial enterprise. Furthermore, toward the century’s end, the notion of the ideal family fell under suspicion and was even criticized as limiting and oppressive rather than reliable and inclusive, casting into doubt the institution to which the orphan historically aspired and through which the orphan state was typically rectified. As a result, in contrast to the sentimental street urchin of early and middle century fiction, fin-de-siecle orphans are often unsettling, irresolute, even monstrous and violent figures.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Arts and Humanities
Literature and Languages

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